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Confessions of a Working Director - 4/24/2009


RATLINE main unit wrapped back at the end of the year.  Since then, as post-production gained momentum, we've been doing one day a month of pickup shots and special effects inserts.  Our last shoot of fx inserts - and therefore the very last shoot of this entire production - was last Friday.

Friday's shoot started around 6:30 pm.  We arrived at a house that Doc Brown arranged for us to take over for the shoot.  (This was probably the fifth or sixth time we shot at / lived in this house for the purpose of shooting RATLINE.)  After doing a quick insert shot of a hearing aid being picked up off a desk (with Gus Stevenson doubling for Joe Engel, who plays "Miles") we moved on to more dramatic stuff.

We shot a couple more inserts of beheaded Nazi victims.  A St. Louis actor named Erik A. Williams, joining the cast of RATLINE on this final day of shooting, came in to be decapitated for the cause.  It was the first time I'd ever met him and he turned out to be a very nice, easy-to-work-with guy.

Then we moved outside to do some re-shoots for a dialog scene that takes place on the side of a road.  Actor Paul Lancia came back to deliver again a few chunks of dialog on the roadside.  I had been unhappy with the lighting on Paul the first time we did these shots, so Paul kindly agreed to return to the location so I could improve the situation.

It was odd to be re-shooting these particular roadside shots on this final day of the schedule, because the first time we did these shots, it was at the beginning of the schedule - day two or three, I believe.

The weather outside was very comfortable (for the first time since we started shooting this movie back in October).  A vehicle we were using in these roadside shots was having some mechanical difficulties, and that slowed things down a bit.  But otherwise, the roadside shoot went very well.  Spirits were high and cast and crew seemed to really be enjoying themselves.  Lots of laughter on set.  I like that.

After cast and crew took a meal break around 1:30 am, we went back to work to shoot more gore inserts.  Special effects man Jim Wayer had made a severed head to look like actor (and executive producer) Jessie Seitz.  In a scene we also shot very early in the schedule, Jessie's character "Darlene" has her head ripped off.  Special effects were not done yet when we shot the scene back in October of last year, so the close ups of Darlene's decapitated noggin had to wait until this past Friday night.  Jim's workload is mammoth, and helming special effects for this movie was incredibly difficult for him to do (in addition to the million other things he does around here).  With these close ups of the Darlene decapitation, Jim's special effects duties for RATLINE were complete.

We wrapped our last day on RATLINE as a deep blue overtook the black night sky.  We packed up the gear while the blue dawn sky turned gray.  It started to rain as we secured all of our equipment for transport home.  And with that, we were done shooting RATLINE.

By this time, Erik and Paul had gone home.  Emily Haack and Doc Brown had been on set for a while as well, but they too had left for home before we wrapped.  Now, the final crew remaining, on this final day of RATLINE, took a seat on the front porch as early morning rain drizzled all around us.  Everyone looked exhausted but happy.

We popped open two bottles of champagne to celebrate the completion of the shoot.  Production manager Bob Nealon, special effects artist Jim Wayer, actor and producer Jason Christ, associate producer Gus Stevenson, production designer Trevor Williams, and I toasted to a successful completion and release of RATLINE.  We drank the champagne, smoked 'em if we had 'em, and talked about what a painful and exhausting - but thrilling and fun - shoot we had experienced together.

Trevor and Bob hit the road to return home.  The rest of us crashed right there on location.  Living / sleeping on location is always awesome.  Not sure exactly why, but it is.  After a few hours sleep, we woke up, watched some SpongeBob SquarePants on TV, then hit the road to return to St. Louis.

Back at the Wicked Pixel Cinema offices, we dragged ourselves in, still very tired.  Jason Christ made us all pancakes (which were very tasty).  I did some work at my desk, very happy that the RATLINE shoot was over, and that - despite the many roadblocks placed in our way - the shoot was very successful.  But I also felt a bit sad.  Making this movie was a blast.  I'm gonna miss it.

Though I had far fewer crew members than I really needed, this was the best team - from actors, to producers, to all the crew people - that I've ever had on a shoot.

So, as I worked at my desk, the final shots of RATLINE only about 12 hours old, in addition to feeling exhausted, happy, sad, and full of pancakes, I also felt lucky to be part of such an amazing team.

Thanks for reading.
Eric Stanze